Oct 18

DH Project Pattern Language

In at least two fields that I know of, practitioners make conscious use of documented patterns. You can’t swing a chicken without hitting them in the software and web development worlds, from the Gang of Four book to Yahoo’s design pattern library, perhaps throwing Twitter Bootstrap into the mix. Architecture holds a place as the development of the first pattern language I know of, Christopher Alexander’s “A Pattern Language”, but maybe there are earlier antecedents.

What would it mean to create a bootstrapping set of patterns for DH projects? Miriam Posner wrote a moderately high-level version of one, as did Paige C. Morgan. How can we build on or further atomize these beginnings? Certainly, I’m not talking about prescribing all the steps of a project, but Alexander never claimed that houses should all be cookie-cutter either. I assert, though, that a set of patterns could help new entrants to DH make early projects, could help with prototyping more ambitious projects, and could raise the bar in general. I’m optimistic enough about our abilities that I think we can describe patterns at different scales than Morgan and Posner, but also optimistic about humanities scholarship that we will always be undertaking projects that are beyond simple patterns.

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